As the colour began to slowly bleed from the sky, I lace up my shoes and hit the streets. Now’s the time to get a breath of air, stretch my jammed-up muscles and let my brain drift unfocused after a day of concentration. Yet the eerily empty streets stretched out before me while many others begin to prepare their evening meals.
The light begins to fade quickly now; twilight hardly touches this part of the world as we cluster closer to the equator than many. In the western sky, the sunset colours begin to drift in.
Two nights before full moon
Rounding the corner, I remembered the significance of tonight. Following the recent equinox, the earth continued its long journey around the sun, starting to tilt ever so slightly away and leaving us in the southern hemisphere inching toward cooler weather. At this time of year, the light changes as the overnight temperatures begin to ease. The colours of sunrise and sunset deepen and, if you’re lucky, you might see the belt of Venus, that gorgeous band of pink and blue dancing along the horizon.
A particularly special night comes two nights before full moon. The huge round orb hangs suspended in the eastern sky. It glowed gently, not yet fully resplendent. Somehow its presence, while the sky still showed the last wisps of daylight, challenges our sense of normality. For me, this night surpasses that which follows some 50 hours later when the moon emerges full and brilliant over the horizon.
Muscles begin to pulse and lengthen as the blood reaches each of the kinks and crevices. Empty lungs fill with oxygen and settle into the faster rhythm my heart demands as I stride up the path. My consciousness floats free venturing where it will. However, a demanding tug on my attention becomes increasingly insistent. The noise level begins to rise, slowly and erratically at first, then forming a huge wave of sound.
the evening chorus
Glancing up I see some flocks of birds, flying out of the darkening western sky towards to east. Despite their differences, big or small, black and white or coloured, they fly in a perfect V shape. This natural miracle comes from each bird following the wing tip of the bird in front, all pivoting from the leader.
The shape soothes our souls, its symmetry and organisation making an immediately recognisable pattern for our brains to process. Experiments have shown that soothing of the birds’ hearts also occurs due to this pattern. Tucking in and coasting on the upwash of air created by the bird in front of them makes the work rate lower. I like to think they also get some comfort from the closeness of their avian family.
The noise intensifies. I hear an orchestral concert of unacknowledged performers. While not in dinner suits or evening dress, many wear black and white. Tonight’s program, dubbed the Evening Chorus, remains a crowd favourite. Rehearsals never stop. Even though few recognise the symphony, and the tempo has no time for andante or adagio, the allegro pace demands my attention. The rhythm pulses as the different sections move in and out, weaving their melody into a deafening composition.
Finally, the symphony reaches a finale, a crescendo of sound that causes an echo I actually feel deep inside my body as I pass underneath several massive trees. The orchestra’s players perch here for this evening’s performance. A carpet of white feathers decorates the ground nearby. Less romantic organic matter, a lasting reminder of tonight’s performance, dots the ground. A couple of unsuspecting drivers thoughtlessly parked below the trees. Already, the detritus from tonight’s gathering begins to provide them with a lasting reminder of their folly.
the orchestra’s players
From just beyond the drop zone, I stand still, gazing upwards at the thousands of birds balanced above me. The many ibis, dressed in their dinner suits of black and white dominate. Forming an admirable percussion section, their long bills clack together as they honk out their song.
Noisy corellas, clothed in a delicate white cream outfit highlighted by a scarf in the perfect shade of pink at their throats, cluster in their hundreds. Their raucous shrieks and calls act as the alto section with an occasional soprano interlude.
The parrot choir rounds out the ensemble. More gaily dressed, many in lurid psychedelic greens, yellows and reds, they squeal and sing and swear in a deafening chorus. Together all the different parts of this feathered orchestra combine into a cacophony of rambling riffs, maddening melodies and shrieking songs.
the beauty of nature
The wall of sound fades slightly as I make my retreat. I glance up to the horizon and see the moon glowing as it rides higher into the darkening sky. “I’ve heard it all before” it seems to say to me, “It’s just life going on as it has for times gone by”.
How reassuring to be reminded of the strength, the resilience, the beauty and the diversity of nature.
The sunset symphony dwindles as I approach home and as the cloak of darkness descends to embrace the feathered orchestra. My body feels energised, my heart feels full, and my soul renewed. I remain grateful for this brief performance, for this reminder of life and its strengths. I remain grateful for the world I live in, its beauty, complexity and challenges.
The lyrics from one of my favourite songs (I especially love Nina Simone’s version) come to mind:
It’s a new dawn,
It’s a new day,
And I’m feeling good.
This is evening, not dawn nor a new day, the time for another day to end. But my orchestral interlude definitely provided me with a tonic. My mood lifted, my worries lessened, and it’s left me feeling good.